In his Oct. 17 op-ed “Too much hot air at town meetings” Edward L. Glaeser is right that the discussions can be wearisome at times, though most towns that have continued the town meeting format find them useful.
My town, Scituate, carefully reviewed the question of town meeting in a Charter Review Commission, and concluded that after about 300 years it still serves the town well. Any serious town issue is accorded a full discussion in which any voter may take part.
I remember a dubious proposal for a new school back in the ’70s, which was supported by town boards, that was defeated at about the time birth rates were in major decline. Similarly, an ill-considered oil-fired town dump facility proposal was defeated about the time oil prices were soaring.
Interested townspeople, no matter how busy, can afford the time to attend one or two town meetings a year; for the most part they are capable of excellent judgment.
Alexis de Tocqueville and Alexander Solzhenitsyn were quite impressed with New England town meetings and saw them at the root of American democracy. Towns that have kept them know what they are doing.